Survivors of the “Tiger King”

What Happened After The Show

April 15, 2020

The popular Netflix series “Tiger King” ended on a bit of a cliffhanger for the animals: what happened to them when Joe Maldonado-Passage (Joe Exotic) went to jail? The series filmed from 2014 to 2020. During that time, Joe continued to breed and sell cubs to buyers. Shortly before he went to jail, he sold his property and animals to Jeff Lowe. He sent some animals to a rescue in Colorado but the rest remained the property with Jeff.

Although we did not rescue any of Joe’s cats after his incarceration, we have rescued cats over the past few years that were bred by Joe then sold to someone else. While we do not always know who bred the cats we rescue (owners do not always offer that information up) some people will tell us or offer us records.

Currently, fourteen of our rescues were bred by Joe Exotic. All but five were born at his facility while they were making “Tiger King”. After breeding them, he sold them to other facilities and individuals who could not care for them for one reason or another. They then contacted Turpentine Creek to rescue their animals. Some cubs were sold when they were only a week old, and other cubs were sold when they were older, too old to be used legally for cub petting.

Joey, Lakota ti-liger, Khaleesi, Naula,Tommie, Floyd, Tigger, Luna, and Diesel (RIP) were all born at Joe’s between 2014 and 2017. They were then sold to private zoos, breeders, and individual owners. Shakira liger, Kiara, Jasmine, Detroit, and Styx were born and sold before “Tiger King” was filmed. 

These are only the animals that we actually have been told that they came from Joe.  We were not told where many of our animals were purchased from. These also are only our most recent rescues; many of our older animals and deceased animals were born at Joe’s then sold to other breeders, road-side zoos, and private owners and eventually required rescue by Turpentine Creek.

This does not mean that we will rescue from active breeding facilities. It is our policy to not take cubs from places like this. If we rescued cubs directly from breeders who are still “in the business”, we would sadly only be helping them by freeing extra finances and space that they can breed even more cubs. This is truly a double-edged sword; we do not want cubs to live in such dismal places, but ultimately, we would only be causing more suffering and contributing to the Big Cat Trade. On the other hand, if a breeding facility closes, we are able to step in. We have used our resources to shut down and rescue from breeding facilities in the past, such as our Colorado Project in 2016 and Mountainburg Rescue in 2012. 

Most of the “Tiger King” survivors are doing well. Diesel died only days after rescue due to a bloodborne disease he caught either from eating road kill or from ticks. He was barely hanging on when we rescued him but at least his last few days were in a warm dry environment with people who cared for him. The rest of our “Tiger King” tigers are thriving. Most have health issues due to inbreeding and malnutrition, but we manage their issues with a good diet and pain medications. These beautiful tigers will never have to worry about abuse again living the best lives possible with us.

Although they can never be free due to the irresponsible choices of humans, we do our best to let them be free at heart in spacious habitats filled with enrichment, good food, and plenty of space to roam. Help us care for the survivors of Joe Exotic and all the other animals that call our Refuge home by donating $10 today to represent the 10 survivors of Joe Exotic’s abuse that were rescued by Turpentine Creek.

If you’re also interested in learning about the female leaders that protect these animals, check out our “Tiger Queens” segment from This Life with Lisa Ling.

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